(First, stop right there! Did you read Chapter 9 of our South Boston romance novella yet? If not, read this first! )
STACKS OF boxes were pushed in the corner of the bright and airy living room. There was a dark wood round dining table in the center. Two places were set with simple white plates. Olivia sipped a glass of red wine while she looked around Billy’s new home. His apartment was on the second floor and there was a small deck with sliding doors that had a view of the city in the distance. His street was small and tree lined. Snow clung to the bare branches and fresh tracks could be seen on the sidewalk below. Nearly eight months had past since their first date – the walk around Castle Island. And in those eight months a lot had moved and shifted in Olivia’s life as if there was an invisible and silent pull from the center of her world – creating space.
Billy chopped onions behind the white quartz island in the kitchen. He was telling her about a call he responded too at work the other day. A fire burned in the fireplace next to Olivia. The red wine and heat from the flames warmed and relaxed her as she listened.
It was a stalled elevator. And when we yelled through the doors, there was guy stuck inside. Jimbo pried open the door and the guy was completely naked except for a flyer that he pulled off the wall to hide his junk.
What?! Olivia laughed.
Yup, completely naked. Not a stitch of clothes.
Did he take them off in the elevator. Was he hot or something.
Nope. No clothes anywhere. Obviously, he got on the elevator naked. He asked for Jimbo’s bunker coat and Jimbo said no way. Then the guy just ran past us naked down the hall in front of his neighbors and everything. He probably had to move after that stunt.
They both laughed and Olivia took another sip of wine. Billy had the habit of making her laugh whenever they were with each other. It was easy and effortless and she genuinely enjoyed his company. She didn’t analyze his motivation and his attention was never in question. She was rarely self-conscious or insecure. When she was with Billy, she just was. Their relationship unfolded and blossomed organically. Like seeing a childhood friend many years later and you just pick up where you left off. Easy.
After their walk around the island, Olivia resisted the urge to text Billy and invite him upstairs. “Let’s just see where this goes” she told herself over and over until the next time she saw him which was the very next morning. He was waiting out front on the stoop with a cup of coffee from the Sidewalk Cafe and a muffin inside a brown paper bag.
“Good morning,” Billy casually greeted her on her way to catch the number 7 bus to work. He handed over the coffee and the bag. “For you,” he smiled.
She accepted them both with a smile. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” and then he went back inside the three-story building. On the top of plastic lid of her coffee cup was a hand drawn smiley face and the words have a nice day written on it. She could feel sparks around her.
In addition to a budding romance, Olivia also experience three sticky situations in the past eight months.
It was clear that Maddie and Jimmy were dating. Maddie tried to be secretive about it at first -like never coming home some nights and early morning, predawn exits by Jimmy slipping out of their apartment like a thief. But eventually it came to light in the form of Jimmy eating takeout on the couch in the living room one Saturday morning. Out in the open, waiting to be seen. Later that day, Olivia mustered up the courage to ask Maddie about it.
So are you guys like dating?
Were you ever gonna tell me?
I wasn’t aware I needed your permission.
Maddie, you started dating someone that I was dating.
You went on one date with him.
You could have been honest with me instead of sneaking around.
Maddie was quiet and there was a faint look of shame in her eyes but then she bristled and her expression transformed into annoyed and she said, Well, we’re dating now. We’re a couple. I really like him.
Olivia realized that she and Maddie had never really been friends. They were roommates and that was it. Their lease was up in a few months, and Olivia accepted it was time to move on.
I’m gonna be moving out in August, Olivia simply said and Maddie didn’t put up a fight. It was done. Olivia saw her at Lincoln at brunch a month later after she moved out. There was a pleasant enough exchange and empty promises of getting together for a future drink.
The late night texting from Steve the landlord continued off and on for months. Sometimes Olivia would engage with him. Lead him on a little – knowing fully well that she would never follow through. This behavior usually happened when Olivia was feeling restlessly insecure usually right before she got her period. Erratic and vulnerable – a sometimes toxic combination. She bumped into him around Christmas in person at Roza Lyons again. She had been to dinner with Billy and they stopped at the bar for a night cap. Steve walked up upon spotting them.
What’s going on here?
Just grabbing a drink, said Billy
With Olivia? asked Steve.
Yeah, obviously. Billy gave a little laugh.
Let me buy you guys a round. They ordered their drinks and the bartender put them on Steve’s tab and then he turned and walked away blending back into the Friday night crowd. When Olivia went to the ladies room, Steve was lying in wait.
Billy, boy, huh? he teased. I thought there was a little something between us.
Steve, you’re married.
Doesn’t matter to me. Does it matter to you?
Yes, it does. You’re a fucking asshole. Your wife deserves better.
Steve laughed and then leaned in and kissed Olivia gently on the cheek.
Good luck with Billy. I’m here when you need me.
Never gonna happen, Steve, said Olivia closing the bathroom door behind her. Later that night he texted her the word Bitch and Olivia never responded.
Olivia was picking up some things at Stop + Shop on a Sunday, when she bumped into Paul and Dana in the frozen food aisle. They were selecting frozen pizzas and Olivia knew Paul would pick Newman’s Own Supreme. It was his favorite or at least used to be. She thought about turning her cart around and steering it the other direction but Paul’s eyes rose to meet hers and it was too late. A small but sheepish smile passed over his face. Dana who was facing Paul turned around to see what Paul’s gaze had met.
Olivia pasted on a smile and headed in the couples direction. She stopped her cart in front of them.
Hey, she said like she was bumping into old friends.
Hey, there, Paul responded.
Olivia was grateful that she had put on some lipstick before her walk to the supermarket. She was wearing her good jeans and the t-shirt she had on was clean.
This is Olivia, Paul said softly to Dana.
Oh right, Hi Olivia.
She could feel the weight of Dana’s stare as her eyes slowing took in the full picture of Olivia.
I actually took one of your classes, added Olivia.
Yes, I remember
How are you Paul?
I’m great, how about you?
Great. Just picking up some groceries.
Yeah, us too.
Alright, then. I better get to it. Great to see you. Nice to meet you, Dana.
And then Olivia rolled away.
An hour later, Olivia’s phone buzzed with a text. It was nice to see you. You look great.
OLIVIA’S NEW apartment was a small studio with Murphy bed and large windows on the top floor of an old factory that had been converted to condos 20 years before. It was bright and clean and the tininess of it made her purge stuff she’d been lugging around with her for decades. Boxes of clothing, handbags, and old books were packed up and donated. Making room for the new, Olivia told herself. She covered her deep windowsills with green plants allowing the sunlight to wash over them. She watered them daily. Over time they would grow.
BILLY PLACED a large platter piled with spicy shrimp and linguini. Steam rose and swirled above. He lit a small votive candle and placed it between them. “Did you know that romance was also on the menu?” he asked. Olivia gave a little chuckle and smiled at him. She relaxed into the chair and settled in for lovely evening.
We hope you enjoyed our first ever serial romance novel! Thank you for participating and shaping where the story would go next! Be on the lookout for more fictions in the future!
If you missed any chapters – they are all right here! Thank you again!
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